E3 2011: BioShock Infinite
Irrational Games gives us the skinny on this much anticipated sequel. As the lights begin to dim, the developers walked us through Columbia and provided us with answers to some of the special questions we’ve had in mind. Despite the absence of a playable demo, we watched and listened in awe as our faces were illuminated by the enormous HD screen, coupled by surround sound speakers – I really need to get me one of those.
It’s revealed that the armed airship has been cut off from civilization due to its involvement in the Boxer Rebellion. Columbia, and its xenophobic citizens, were responsible for firing at a civilian village in China, promptly wiping it off the map. This led to the U.S. Government retracting its acknowledgment of the ship, thus exiling Columbia’s citizens. The airship is left to wander the world as a floating, mad city, bringing its influence over whomever dwells under its airways.
As the story goes, you play as Booker, a down-on-his-luck ex-Pinkerton, who has been given the job to rescue a young girl named Elizabeth. Still no info revealed as to why the young lass is held captive, however, the developers advised that she has never seen the world that lies beneath Columbia. The giant bird machine that had been previously referenced to as ‘Him’ is revealed as ‘Song Bird’, Elizabeth’s jailer. Though our two heroes are always on the run from this robotic monstrosity, Song Bird is actually also seen as a ‘friend’ by Elizabeth due to the fact that it is the only source of contact she has with the outside world. Despite Song Bird’s brutal nature, Elizabeth can actually coax it into holding back its wrath, as seen when it assaults Booker.
We also learn that Columbia’s citizens have been divided into factions: The Founders, whose supreme influence on the city has begun to wane, and the Vox Populi, the violent rivals of The Founders who have begun staging public executions. Contrary to what the original trailers have shown, Elizabeth actually does not have immediate mastery of her powers – she begins developing her abilities the moment Booker frees her from her prison. Because of this discovery, and the fear derived from not knowing where these powers originated, nor how to control them, Elizabeth refuses to leave Columbia until she gets some answers. It is believed that Comstock, leader of The Founders, has some knowledge of these affairs, thus Booker is unable to immediately escape from the airship.
Most of the gameplay shown during the demonstration had already been explored in earlier trailers. But, the developers introduced us to a number of the weapons available to Booker, such as RPGs and a heavy gatling gun. We also witness how Booker and Elizabeth’s relationship develop overtime, as they are constantly conversing with one another in and out of combat. This breathes life into the partnership gameplay genre, which up until now has always been seen as two avatars trapped in a constant flux of awkward silence. Along with Booker constantly pointing out the sights with amusement, and Elizabeth’s attempts to lighten the mood through childish antics, a further step towards the interactive movie experience is made realized. In the meantime, to say that the graphics are ‘incredible’ would be a major understatement – know now that to play this bad boy with anything less than full HD capability would be depriving yourself of its majesty.
Last, but not least, Elizabeth exhibits an intriguing side effect when she exerts herself in channeling her powers. In a desperate attempt to heal an injured horse, her and Booker are suddenly sucked into a dramatic change in scenery – a wailing police car begins to approach them and a movie theater advertises the premier of ‘Return of the Jedi’. Hmmm…
At this time, the developers have not provided an update on its vague 2012 release, but reminds us that it will be released on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. For now, I can assure you that this is a title that’s definitely shaping up to soar above the clouds.